Immigration services receives a $20,000 grant

The Catholic Charities Office of Immigration Services received a grant that will help them meet the needs of immigrants across the state.

The funding was awarded by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. In June, the foundation announced that 10 organizations would receive Immigrant Families Initiative grants as part of National Immigrant Heritage Month.

The Catholic Charities Office of Immigration Services was selected to apply for the grant in late 2016. The office will use the $20,000 to partially fund the salary of Lauren Comar, an attorney with the Mount Pleasant office.

Comar began volunteering with Immigration Services in 2014 and became part-time staff in 2015. Now, she is a full-time staff attorney. Comar’s role involves providing legal services to immigrants and educating the community on immigrant rights and eligibility for immigration benefits. The grant runs from June 1, 2017, through May 31, 2018.

The Immigration Services Office includes four offices across the state: one in Mount Pleasant, two in Greenville, and one in Hilton Head. Each office assists immigrant clients from all over South Carolina. Their mission is to support just and fair treatment through the delivery of high quality, low-cost legal services and community education. The office provides family-based immigration services and assists victims of crime and domestic violence. In addition, the office helps people apply for permanent residency, work permits, visas, and citizenship. “This work directly and profoundly affects the lives of immigrants and their families. Obtaining legal documents, such as work permits, green cards, Social Security numbers, and driver’s licenses has an immeasurable impact on undocumented persons,” said Emily Guerrero, associate director of Immigration Services.

Last year alone, they served 1,654 clients around the state, plus 5,834 family members. They also held 16 community education outreach events around the state.

“Legal status brings people out of the shadows and allows them to get better jobs and have financial stability,” Guerrero said, “They are able to live without the constant fear of deportation, truly build their lives, and contribute to their communities.”

Through the Immigrant Families Initiative Grant, the Catholic Charities Office of Immigration Services can fund a full-time staff attorney. In turn, more immigrants and their families will be served this year.

According to the Sisters of Charity Foundation’s website, the Immigrant Families Initiative is “dedicated to enhancing the health, well-being and economic mobility of immigrant, mixed-status and refugee families. Working to lift families out of poverty, we invest and leverage strategically, convene stakeholders and form intentional alliances supporting community-driven efforts to build inclusive, welcoming places for new South Carolinians.”

The foundation states that “integrating immigrants and refugees yields tremendous benefits for South Carolina, ultimately contributing to shared prosperity and economic vitality for all.”

By Anna Bolch / Special to The Miscellany